by R.S. Mellette
No, your franily is not some body part that you've never heard of. It has nothing to do with your furnace, health insurance, permanent record, or any of the other things we worry about in life. Your franily is the combination of your family, friends, and fans. It is where all artists begin their professional journey.
I used to think that was kind of pitiful. Poor van Gogh, only sold a single painting in his lifetime, and that was to his brother. Okay, one sale does suck, but there is no shame in it being to a family member. This isn't a starving artist thing, it's a starving entrepreneur thing. As soon as a friend or family member gets a job in sales, who is the first person they pitch? You. So why should you be worried about hitting them up to buy your book, see your play or movie, come to your opening, or whatever? That's just the way the world is, especially these days.
Of course, the trick to longevity in any business is to increase your franily. Outside of marriage and children, your family isn't going to get statistically larger. You can grow your list of friends, but doing that for sales isn't the best thing for your soul – except on Facebook, but that's another matter.
So the best thing you can do is grow your fan base. Doing that is something people make careers out of, but the cost effectiveness of hiring a publicist is, arguably, prohibitive. If you're going to grow your fan base, how do you do it?
First, you need to find a foothold. What is your starting point? For most, that foothold is friends and family. Each of them have friends and connections. Sure, only a tiny percentage of them will be willing to help you, so you have to figure out how you can help them. For example, many of my friends have nieces, nephews, grandkids, etc. who are the right age for Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand, which is 10-16. That's a tough age to shop for. My book helps them stuff a stocking or add to a pile of birthday gifts. That in turn helps me, not only with a sale, but hopefully to add a fan or two to my base.
So, great. That's one or two sales, maybe ten if you count all the friends who actually help you make a sale. What next?
When I worked at Busch Gardens as a street performer, employees used to make fun of the tourists who came to the park. I think this sort of thing happens in every business. It's an easy defense mechanism to lampoon those you have to interact with on a daily basis. I remember one day walking through the park afterhours, and enjoying the woods that surround the Williamsburg, VA attraction. It really is beautiful. The architects didn't just slap down some concrete and rides. They made a real park that happens to be full of amusements.
While I was in this little euphoric moment, I thought about the tourists. Who were these people I entertained for thirty minutes six times a day? My answer? They were me. If I wasn't working there, I'd be playing there, and some employee would make fun of the sunburn on my growing bald spot.
Tourists are just regular people getting away from their regular lives, coming to me for some escapist entertainment. When they go back to work, I'll be going to them to straighten out some problem with my health insurance, or returning a stupid gift without a receipt.
Your fans are the same way. They are you. Obviously, they share your interests because they've read your book. As for the fans you haven't reached yet, look for them as if you were looking for yourself. When you find them, you might find something you didn't know about you and your franily.